The Voices Inside My Computer Speakers Have Ceased!

Yesterday, I finally retired the pair of Jensen desktop speakers that have been dutifully audibilizing my home computers for the past 22-plus years. It’s not that they failed. They worked fine. It’s that for the past five or so years they’ve been intermittently connected to another dimension. Specifically they’ve been broadcasting at veeeery low volumes and typically only early in the mornings, some Spanish-language talkradio station — unknown whether it was a licensed one on the AM or FM bands, or some pirate shortwaver.

All I know is that typically in the still of the early mornings, I could come down and if I listened carefully I could hear it, and upon doing so I then couldn’t get it out of my ears. And no, I’m not crazy. Click the following link for my search of radio broadcasts through my damn computer speakers and you’ll see I’m neither nutz nor alone. The problem is ascribed to Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), with the most likely cause being my proximity to such broadcast origins combined with any unshielded speaker wiring connected to my computer, that thus acts as an antenna.

The solutions are generally as follows: 1) Move the speakers to another location. 2) Shorten up the wires. 3) Purchase and attach filtering Ferrite clamps or rings to the wiring . I tried the first two, to no avail. I even swapped out the connector wire with others I happened to have. No go. So I was just about to purchase the last suggested option, when I decided to hell with ferrite doohickies, and instead just buy a new pair that were properly shielded. It didn’t take long and later that day I unceremoniously removed the Jensens and plugged in a properly protected $22 set of Logitechs.

In the predawn this morning? When I sat down at my computer with fingers crossed to the point of being painful and brought her out of sleep mode? I listened. I listened caaaaaarefully. ¿El silencio? ¡Era de oro!


Pen Hack! A Tale Of Two Ballpoints

Note: I warn you ahead of time this post may change the way you feel about me as a potentially normal human being. I’d advise not dwelling on it too much and just chalking it up to “Oh that Will… the lengths he’ll go to about something so trivial — and then write about it!” But if you want to overthink my sanity or lack thereof, that’s OK.

Whilst most of my communication is done via fingertips and a keyboard, my job has me writing violation notices in triplicate on an almost daily basis, and as such I’m always searching for a gooooood ballpoint pen to provide whatever boost to my crappy penmanship. My journey has led me to find two of my favorites. The Staples 1.0  and the Paper Mate Profile 1.4. Both of these instruments are gloriously smooth. In fact the latter claims to be the “World’s Smoothest Pen.” I am unable to refute that trademarked boast, but I don’t agree with it, I think the Staples 1.0 edges it out.

Trouble is the pen containers themselves that encase their ink cartridges are relatively bulky –additionally so with the inclusion of rubber grips — and as a result, carrying the requisite two (“always have a back-up!”) in my uniform shirt pocket while on duty is not an option.

Enter Pen No. 3. The Bic Clic Stic, the very model of compact and slender efficiency, two fit in my pocket like they were custom built for it. See how it and the Staples 1.0 compare, below:


The only problem is the Clic Stic does not write to my satisfaction. Not that it’s bad, it’s perfectly acceptable. But in the environment within which I scribe, i.e., usually while on my feet outdoors holding a ticket book at somewhat of an awkward angle while trying to write information legibly in very small areas on a slightly unstable surface, it’s just does not feel as comfortable as either the Staples or Paper Mate.

With an acceptance of form over function, I made do with the Clic Stic because of its overall design until it dawned on me a few weeks ago, that I might be able to do a simple hack involving the taking of the ink cartridge out of the Staples and/or Paper Mate and swapping it for the one that comes standard with the Clic Stic.

Of course, when that dawning occurred I was down to my last Staples 1.0 and upon removal of the pens’ respective guts I found the Staples ink cartridge was about a quarter-inch longer than the Bic’s. Since an irreversible trim would be in order with no guarantee of success, I wasn’t about to risk sacrificing it without some back-ups on hand.

And that brought me to a local Staples last weekend, where I spent 10 minutes wasting my time scouring their huuuuuge selection of pens only to find that particularly store on that particular day didn’t have a single Staples 1.0 in stock. Much grousing ensued and led to me taking a box of Paper Mates to the register. When the cashier asked me if I’d been able to find everything I wanted, I curtly told her absolutely not. When her bored looked turned to one of mild surprise I insisted she not worry about it because the last thing I wanted to do was waste more time talking about it. After all, a pen’s a pen, right? Wrong.

Next I went to and found a box of a dozen of them was only going to cost $5.29 — but get this: the only shipping involved a whoppingly excessive $9.95 charge. Much WTFing ensued until I discovered that Staples offers free delivery to its stores for customer pick-up, so I selected that option and a couple days later after being notified via email that my order was delivered, detoured on my way home to pick it up. I was humorously not surprised to find my box of pens — roughly 5″ x 3″ x 1″– had been shipped in a box that was easily 18″ x 12″ x 4″. Ironically, Staples has apparently never heard of padded envelopes, which they sell.

Long story short, I sat down yesterday with six of the Clic Stics and six of the Staples 1.0s, and about six minutes later, having successfully completed the final pen hack I now had the best of both worlds where form equaled function: a half-dozen fully operational Clic Stics holding their freshly trimmed and installed supersmooth Staples ink cartridges. And there was much rejoicing.


All Together Now

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite musicals, “Man of La Mancha,” goes like this:

“Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.”

Well in the case of the pticher pictured below, it wasn’t a stone, but rather the backyard patio floor that it made contact with, and yes, it was bad for the pitcher.

The pitcher was on the patio table the night of last week’s hellacious winds, and just as I was not smart enough to heed the weather advisories and take down the adirondack chair I’d put on the roof last summer, so was I not smart enough to close the patio table umbrella, which at some point during that mostly sleepless night caught what must have been a pretty spectacular gust like a vertical sail, which then lifted up the entire table and moved it about three feet from where it had previously stood. Consequently, the pitcher — brought back from Italy by Susan during our 2007 cruise around that country’s seas — tumbled to its doom upon the concrete.

Dutifully I gathered up all the broken bits big and small and badly reassembled them — with the exception of that silver-dollar-sized hole in its belly, the pieces of which I can only list as missing and presumed pulverized.

These reconstructions are a strange habit which I’ve had for most of my life. I think the compulsion to reconstitute what’s been deconstituted is tied to that same unavoidable drive I had to “clean” the graffiti off our garage doors couple months back (and in turn make a bigger mess that the city eventually came and painted out — but it was MY mess, not the taggers). In this case, like the ladybug pot that also shattered that night, it’s not about fixing what’s broken or returning it to its previous unmarred fully functional state. My intent is driven by sentimentality not meticulousness. I mean… just look at it: it’s days as a liquid-bearing vessel are gone.

But its days not even nearly good as new, but better, have begun.

Olympic Fever

In these years of fading memory I can’t seem to recall the specfix of how I came to have this image below that I rediscovered this weekend whilst stumbling around my archives. My best recollection is that I found it via my fellow LA Metblogger Frazgo, either via a post he made on the find somewhere or from his Flickr photostream.

What is it? Well, I’m a little fuzzy on that as well. Obviously it’s a weathered treasure from the 1932 summer Olympic games here in L.A., but specifically I’m thinking that in the original image the badge was attached as an ornament  that adorned either the grille or the hood of a car from that time, and that the end result you see above is from my efforts in Photoshop to separate it out and stand it alone, maybe to put it on a shirt or a —.

[Sound of tires screeching]

Mystery solved! Instead of sitting here writing about scratching my head about it, I zipped over to Frazgo’s Flickr photostream and found the original image. Yep, it’s just as I’d thought.

Next stop: shirt creation!

Hey Bud

Around the same time last summer that I made this night-long timelapse of a nocturnal cactus flower opening wide, I dropped a couple fallen prickly pear cactus pads into a small pot of soil and commenced spritzing them with water occasionally through the subsequent seasons in hopes that they might keep on going.

I’m pleased to report this morning that I have found the largest pad sporting a tiny bud about half the size of a thumbnail and growing strong (click to triplify):


Plants are amazing!

Avocado Avocation

It was Jo Gillis and the miracle of her “Charlie Brown” peach tree that got things started. Shortly after reading that post near the end of July I plopped into pots the pits of a pair of peaches (say that three-times fast) to see if they might grow, but so far nothing yet.

Jo later asked if I’d ever successfully grown an avocado from seed and I told her I’d previously and unsuccessfully attempted the same “drop, cover and hope” method as the peach pits and just for the heck of it googled “how to plant an avocado tree” and of course found out How To Plant An Avocado Tree. Passing on that link to her, she replied that she was going to give it a try and shortly thereafter so did I — aided in part by the seed of a store-bought Haas avocado that had already grown what the instructions call the “tap root.”


That’s the one on the far left, above (click to quadruplify), which has since added additional roots. As you can see since we immersed that one on August 5, we’ve grown our collection to include the seeds of every avocado we’ve consumed since.  The one on the far right also had a tap root already in progress; the one left of center has cracked and a tap root is just beginning to emerge and the one right of center is the least developed of the quartet.

We’ve yet to come up with names for them.

Adding to the hopes for the long-haul success of this undertaking is the recent discovery of the removal of an amazing neighborhood avocado tree around the corner from us that I wrote about on in April 2006. While walking the dogs last week I was shocked and heartbroken to find the towering tree so fantastically laden with fruit the previous year had been completely and totally destroyed.

Here’s hoping one or more of these babies can be its replacement.

The Sincerist Form Of Flattery

For months now I’ve secretly envied my friend and fellow cycling enthusiast Stephen because of a simple little device he put on his bike: a bell. No, not the thumb-driven kind you mount to your handlebars; he has one of those and so do I.

What he did was take a little dingaling-type bell and fix it to the underside of his saddle so it dangles there, ringing lightly whenever the condition of the road or his movement is enough to put it in play and thus making everyone in his immediate vicinity aware of his proximity. But beyond its capacity to alert, it’s also gotten to a point where to me the bell has become his signature. For example, during last Friday’s RIDE-Arc I heard the bell jingling as he was pulling alongside me and I didn’t even have to look over: I knew it was him. That’s an awesome safety feature when you think about it; I could keep my eyes front and let my ears tell me he was coming up along my left.

Historically speaking, I’d long seen this in use off-road among some of the more considerate mountain bikers I’d encounter, but I hadn’t seen it translated on-road and it’s something I’ve been meaning to experiment with… for want of a bell.

I know, I know : you’re thinking that bells aren’t that hard to come by and the type I was looking for could pretty much be extracted from any cat toy or inexpensively purchased so why the prolonged want? I have no answer other than it turns out I’ve had one in my possession all along. This one:


I can’t recall where I got it or how long I’ve had it, but it’s been around a long while, perhaps even going back to the ’80s. Most recently it’s been sitting within arm’s length on a bookshelf and the reason I hadn’t pressed it into service is that with the cat handle, it’s just too big for the bike. Then for whatever reason I picked it up a few minutes ago and gave it a twist and it turns out the handle screws onto the piece inside the bell that holds the… thingamagig: gonger, dinger, bonger, striker, toller. Whatever.

A few twists and the handle’s off but so disassembled is the rest of the trinket as well and now I’ll need an exact sized nut that’d fit the screw that goes through the bell’s top and then something that will attach to the nut on one end and provide a way to secure it to the bike via the other end. As luck (and a habit of saving spare nuts, bolts and such) would have it I found that exact nut and then Macgyver’d it tightly into one of those springy allen wrench holders, like this:


So that the end result looks something like this:


Perfect. And then with the help of a spare keychain o-ring goes onto the bike’s saddlebag it goes, like this:


Like I mentioned earlier this is an experiment. I don’t know if the thing might fall apart after a couple miles or if it’s too big/loud a bell or perhaps not big/loud enough. I certainly don’t want to be incessantly dingalinging along as I roll down the street, nor do I want to have to do any extra work to force the bell to toll. So in the meantime I’ll keep my fingers crossed while piggybacking on Stephen’s excellent idea to see if things’ll sound just right.